Westpac Offers Optional Gambling Block for Accounts
There are many Australian banks that have imposed mandatory blocks for online gambling transactions. The list of banks that allow gambling transactions is shrinking but one bank is taking a responsible approach towards problem gambling.
Westpac recently added a feature to bank accounts that will allow customers to request a block of online gambling transactions. This will prevent customers from making credit card purchases for online lottery and online casino games. However, this is a voluntary feature, not a compulsory one.
Westpac Adds In-App Features to Help Curb Problem Gambling
A few weeks ago, Westpack added a feature to accounts that allow customers to block all online gaming transactions. This includes everything from online lottery sales to deposits at Australian online casinos.
The feature is available on both its online banking and mobile banking platforms. It blocks purchases in real-time when someone tries to make a gaming purchase using their MasterCard. According to Westpac, over 2,500 customers are now using this service since its launch.
Westpac launches real-time digital gambling block for customers https://t.co/isAtz42C3h
— Susie Newham (@AdviserVoice) April 28, 2021
According to Catherine Fitzpatrick, Director of Customer Vulnerability at Westpac, “We have seen through COVID-19, as an industry that there have been a lot more people turning to digital (gaming) and a lot more people have been gambling.”
“The new feature complements our existing service where customers can also call us to request a gambling block to be applied to their card to stop certain transactions, including at casinos, sports betting agencies, and online gambling.”
Families and Social Services minister Anne Ruston approves the move, stating that, Australians now have a safe way to gamble online. According to Rustan, “Westpac’s digital gambling block will give Australians a convenient, sensible and immediate way to manage their spending and minimize gambling-related harm.”
“It is great to see that groups in the industry have identified that gambling is a serious cause for concern and are taking steps to let their customers regulate the industry.”
How the New Service Works
Unlike some banks, Westpac’s new feature gives customers the option to block online gambling transactions. Customers can enact the feature directly from their account or they can contact a customer service agent to have the block enacted. This is similar to putting yourself on a self-exclusion list.
The big difference for this is that it blocks all forms of online gaming. The block will likely also block gaming transactions from mobile games, such as purchases of play money in pseudo-gambling games. It may even block transactions for upgrades to various games like Empires and Puzzles.
Great to see @Westpac introduce a new banking feature to prevent gambling payments on debit & credit cards. Important to see the banking sector step up to help address devastating impact of gambling on families & community @GamblingHelpAU #RethinkAddictionhttps://t.co/mIAwtcsa2A
— Dan Lubman (@dan_lubman) April 28, 2021
It is unclear at this time as to how difficult it will be to undo this feature once activated. If someone activates this and changes their mind six months from now, will there be a waiting period? Or is this a permanent block once enacted?
Westpac Taking Responsible Approach to Blocking Transactions
We have spoken at length in the past regarding banks that block online gambling transactions. While we understand that protecting customers from problem gambling is a concern, not all players need to be protected. There are many people that are able to play online pokies, blackjack, or other casino games responsibly.
Blocking all customers to protect a select few is an overreach of authority from banks. Customers should have the option to gamble or not. Westpac is taking the responsible approach in giving customers the option to block their accounts. If they choose to do so, Westpac can step in. Otherwise, customers can continue as normal.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, we urge you to seek help. There are many resources out there for help. You can start by calling Gambling Help Online at 1800-858-858 or by visiting www.gamblehelponline.org.au.
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